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“I Did Not Come to Bring Peace, But A Sword”
(26) “Therefore do not fear them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. (27) “What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light; and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim upon the housetops. (28) “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. (29) “Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. (30) “But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. (31) “So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.
(32) “Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. (33) “But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.
(34) “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. (35) “For I came to SET A MAN AGAINST HIS FATHER, AND A DAUGHTER AGAINST HER MOTHER, AND A DAUGHTER-IN-LAW AGAINST HER MOTHER-IN-LAW; (36) and A MAN’S ENEMIES WILL BE THE MEMBERS OF HIS HOUSEHOLD.
(37) “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. (38) “And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. (39) “He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.
What did you expect?
This is not a “fair world”—it is a world engaged in and enamored with death. To choose sin is to pursue death and make it lord of your life (Romans 6). A person came to me earlier this week angry and accusatory that he had just been fired. I do not disagree that he had the right to be angry. I just questioned what good it was doing him. In fact, I was quite surprised he held onto the job as long as he did. Every time I’ve seen him over the last two years he seemed to have been condemning his supervisors and associates. Now, he was mad at God for his termination.
Finally, I felt myself slip into “parent” role and said; “It’s not healthy to think the world will treat you gingerly just because you call yourself Christian.”
Being a follower of Christ doesn’t mean that you should be excluded from the consequences of sin in this world. To be Christian means we pray for those who persecute us—it doesn’t give we receive a “hallway pass” out of persecution. Who among us has been more persecuted than our master? He died for those who were nailing his hands to the cross. His act of love was so much greater—can our response be so much less? In street work—I could tell I was doing well if drug leaders saw me as a threat and steeped up their threats against me.
The Prince of Sin attacked the Prince of Love—Jesus didn’t see that as unfair—he saw that as a necessity if he were to achieve his mission on earth. We should expect no less. Our greatest surprise should not be that world treats us harshly—but that the Lord is willing to walk through everything by our side.
The Revealing [Apokalupto]
What not to fear
First of all—we do not need to fear men. Therefore, the approval of man—or disapproval should be of no concern to us. We are not on the earth to receive authority through majority vote, consensus or to be accepted by others. We are on the earth to grow closer to God. Our example is forever Jesus and he was killed by the authorities of his day for the sake of political expedience.
Spiritual leadership speaks on a spiritual, not a social, peer or political basis. We must always be wary of a compromise based upon whether it will make other people feel uncomfortable
What to fear
Christ is not speaking about an impersonal or ambiguous “Him” in this sentence. Jesus is speaking succinctly about an individual. That individual, of course, is Satan, [Kata Diaboulos]. Satan may use a group to tear at your heels, or an individual to bring you down with accusations. Yet, the heart of Satan’s desire is to destroy your eternal soul.
Some people are way too easy for “him” to consume. They are duped into comfort by a channel changer and a beer. Satan dissolves some people by destroying their morals and others by destroying their employment or financial situation (as with my friend mentioned above). Yet, there are many Satan ruins by allowing them to be prosperous, acclaimed and attractive. Essentially, Satan will do whatever works to ruin your relationship with God or to make you doubt the Holy Spirit’s presence in your life.
How to fight Satan
Second: Throw yourself into the Word!
We do not experience the strength of the Lord until we are on the front lines of the harvest for justice and righteousness.
Fighting Satan is no joke. He is a “roaring lion looking to kill you! [1 Pet 5:8] Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour (KJV).”
I used to underplay the role of Satan in this world—until I saw the underbelly of gangs, drugs and crime! Then, I saw his hideous face in all that horrendous hatred. Now, I do believe I see his face more in the sleepy apathy of Christians who tend to think of good and evil as sort of a benign fairy tale.
Words of alarm; Words of comfort
Can anything be too small for a great God? If you lined one hundred people on a beach and asked them to track the light from the moon across the water to their own feet—is there anyone who would say; “Well, it’s not shining on me?” What if you lined up a thousand people? A million? No matter where you stood on that beach, the light would reflect to you personally. What a loving sign of creation that points to the love of our Creator. Like the beam of light on the beach, our God’s love is personal to each one of us.
The God who count’s the hairs on each head, has a desire to be involved in every detail of our life.
Everyday we have the opportunity to take Jesus with us: To the workplace, the store, to school, on a walk or to the gym. We mustn’t only call upon Jesus when we feel stressed. We need to turn our lives into constant gratitude.
In essence, our very life must become a vehicle of the Lord. How would it change your life if you saw yourself as Christ’s cabby; “Where can I drive you today, Jesus?” If you started each morning with; “Where can I take you today, Jesus? Who do you need to see? Who needs to see you?”
This is not just “the Pastor’s job.” A pastor’s primary task is to get disciples “fueled up and truckin’” for the Lord. Pastors are the oil pans on the church engine, constantly asking; “How do I get my people liberated and lubricated to serve the Lord. Pastors are soul mechanics keeping the fleet in action everyday.
Denied by Jesus
Denying Jesus means two things:
Last week we saw how Jesus said “the harvest was full.” Yet, too many Christians are sitting in the grain elevator wondering why the wheat isn’t picking itself and raining through the rooftop.
Worse still, far more Christians aren’t even concerned with the harvest. They act like paying customers in the Lord’s movie theater—getting an hour of entertainment once a week. Paul called that “Baby’s Milk” Christianity [1 Cor. 3:2].
As we stated before, many of us never feel the victory of Jesus because we have never been to the front line with him. Frankly, we deny Jesus when we don’t go with Jesus! It is like the “friend” who says; “I’ll do anything for you,” when what they really mean is, “anything that doesn’t inconvenience me.” Does that exemplify my relationship with Jesus? Am I that kind of “friend?”
That is “denying the Lord.”
The thing is, once you have been “on the line” with Jesus, you never want to retreat. The incredible joy of sharing in the harvest is incomparable. There is no human equivalent that would adequately compare with seeing someone—who was hopeless—become infused with a mission to serve the Lord. It makes the rest of life seem petty in comparison. And, well, that’s because it is…
Where do you need to go today to place yourself in the middle of the harvest? Better still, where does Jesus want you to take him?
Jesus comes to call
Denying Jesus or “to not confess” Jesus is to make him a “sometimes Lord” of my life. As a missionary, I have learned I can “take off the collar”, but never the responsibility of Jesus. I am still missionary while mowing the lawn, picking up groceries, getting on an airplane or having a cup of coffee. However, that is just as true in my role as missionary as it is in my role as father, friend or husband.
Wherever I go, I either take Christ with me or I deny him. If he is Lord, I can’t very well say; “You wait in the car, I’d rather not be seen with you in here.” How do I think Christ would respond if I said; “Jesus, you might not want to go in here with me, this place is full of sinners.”
He’d jump up and say; “Great! Let’s go share some Good News!” Would I dare tell him that wasn’t exactly my intention? “Actually, I was kind of going to join in…”
Jesus is Always Lord or Never Lord, but he is never Sometimes Lord.
We cannot get around these teachings—so we had better get into them!
What kind of behavior coaxes this vehemence out of Jesus?
The cut of the blade
When can we expect to feel God’s sword?
First, anytime I hold back or undermine the building of the kingdom or the agents who are involved in the harvest.
Sin doesn’t have to be participatory to be sin. When I turn away from injustice, I am a passive supporter of sin.
Secondly, God’s double-edged sword swings my way anytime I hold my gifts back from being employed in building his kingdom. The sin of the fig tree was not growing in season. The sin of the Dives—the Rich Man—was turning his head everyday as he stepped over Lazarus. The sin of the “goats” that called Jesus, “Lord,” was they did not meet Jesus in feeding the sick, visiting the incarcerated or giving water (Jesus) to the thirsty (hopeless).
Once again, we are confronted with the concept that faith is not something I have—it is someone I am. I am either faithful or not. It is like water in that it will not stay cupped in my hand forever. Faith has to be put to use—or it will evaporate!
How can I make sure that I am growing “in season?”
When can we expect to claim God’s sword?
As parents, my wife and I have to make sure that our children do not come to the dinner table full of junk food. As a Christ-centered leader, I see that same role as important in freeing people to grow in season. Many of us do not hunger for the Lord, his community or his word—because we are stuffed with soul-rotting candy. I would participate in sin if I did not confront this in those who have proclaimed the Christian path—and, of course, the same applies to myself (the two-edged sword).
The whole intent of this reading is the adamant stance of Jesus with his disciples to confront complacency wherever it is found. Jesus was urgent for the kingdom be preached! He saw the hunger of hopelessness among the people and his stomach hurt with their pain. He does not want us to live in complacency while those around us suffer from hopelessness.
There is such needless pain in ripe fields of the Lord. As he looked upon the suffering he couldn’t help but turn to his own followers and say; “Get out there!”
I do not seek to be nonchalant if a friend is headed for disaster. If someone’s luxury liner is headed for an iceberg—how responsible would I be if I just continued to talk about sports and the weather?
The father of the Prodigal Son was a wonderful example of assertiveness. He drew the line and said; “I know what love is—and what you’re seeking is not love.” When Jesus watched the Rich Young Ruler turn and walk away—he showed assertiveness by not running after him and shouting; “I’m just kidding—you don’t have to give up all your money. Just give up what’s comfortable for you.”
The leader who sugar-coats Christianity to gain followers may gain followers—but not Christians. The goal of any Christian leader should not be increased follower-ship—but committed disciples, ready to “go and do,” not “stay and get comfy.” Disciples (like those of John the Baptist) are ready to jump up and run after Jesus the moment they hear Christ’s call.
Jesus leveled with his followers—because he truly loved them. If I tell an inmate, “Accept the Lord and he will make your life a breeze,” then I am a liar. If I ask an inmate, “Are you ready to live a fulfilling life and be called to the toughest mission you have ever faced?” Then, I am a Christ-centered leader.
To all believers—there is a tough cross-ing ahead. We should not expect less persecution as Christians—but more. The world will hate us and that hate will be expressed in gossip, silent scowls, bitter accusations, and even relatives who try and remind us; “I know the real you!” For some of us, it will take the form of true physical persecution. We may have to flee our homes, face death or even experience physical attack.
There are still neighborhoods that I cannot safely return, drug leaders hold long grudges. At times, I wonder when they are going to turn up in a cell where I continue to minister or at a fast food restaurant where I stop for coffee. I remember mowing the lawn and wondering every time that I reached the edge of the row if a shot was going to come.
Yet, my prayer was never stronger. My faith was never deeper, my God was never more present. As I let go of my fears—I gained immeasurable depth and faith in the Lord, Protector of my soul.
I have never found depth in self-preservation. I have never found Jesus in self-service. I have never experienced love in selfishness. Only when I lay down my life do I find a life worth living for—his life through me.
About the Author
Jerry Goebel is a community organizer who started ONEFamily Outreach in response to gang violence and youth alienation in a rural community in Southeastern Washington. Since that time, Jerry has worked with communities around the globe to break the systemic hold of poverty by enhancing the strengths of the poor.
Copyright © 2007 Jerry Goebel. All Rights Reserved. This study may be freely distributed, as long as it bears the following attribution: Source: Jerry Goebel: 2007 © http://onefamilyoutreach.com.
Scripture Quotations noted from NASB are from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD VERSION of the bible. Copyright © The Lockman Foundation 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995. Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org)
The New Testament Greek Lexicon based on Thayer’s and Smith’s Bible Dictionary plus others; this is keyed to the large Kittel and the “Theological Dictionary of the New Testament.” These files are public domain.
The Old Testament Hebrew Lexicon is Brown, Driver, Briggs, Gesenius Lexicon; this is keyed to the “Theological Word Book of the Old Testament.” These files are considered public domain.
NAS Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible with Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek Dictionaries. Copyright © 1981, 1998 by The Lockman Foundation. All rights reserved. (www.Lockman.org)
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